The United States Men’s National Team continued their World Cup Qualifying campaign in the Caribbean against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In truth, there was very little to take from a match against a lowly island nation in a cricket stadium. It was a comfortable win for Jurgen Klinsmann’s troops, as it should have been.
USMNT vs. St. Vincent: What to Take Out of the Comfortable Win
Jurgen Klinsmann’s lineup contained little surprises. The only case of Klinsmann insanity was Kellyn Acosta at left back, a position he hasn’t played at the club level, let alone internationally. Common wisdom said Fabian Johnson would take up that role for this round of qualifiers, but this allowed Johnson to play a more productive part in the wide midfield, which paid off for them. Acosta’s inclusion came down to the heat. The boss did say his familiarity with hot temperatures played a role in his selection. The game time temperature was a balmy 94 degrees. Here’s the full starting lineup in their 4-4-2 formation:
Yedlin – Cameron – Besler – Acosta
Zusi – Beckerman – Bedoya (Kljestan 66′) – Johnson (Pulisic 67′)
Altidore (Morris 72′) – Wood
The match turned out to be an expected easy win. Goals from Bobby Wood, Matt Besler, and Jozy Altidore gave them a 3-0 advantage at the break. The second half got kind of dicey. Two disallowed goals for St. Vincent almost caused some big issues, but the Stars and Stripes managed to stabilize and they were able to see out the match without giving anything up. Three more goals came in the second half. Substitute Christian Pulisic scored twice with a Sacha Kljestan goal sandwiched between to finish off the 6-0 scoreline.
Matches like these don’t leave much room for hot takes, but there were a few takeaways.
Bobby Wood’s finishing
Wood, who scored in his debut with Hamburg SV in Germany, struggled in this match. The 23-year-old forward had a pair of nice chances in the opening ten minutes. His first one ended in a weak shot right into the keeper’s arms. A blast with his right foot would have had better odds of tickling the twine, but he tried to force a left footer instead. The second looked like he had the pace to get around the St. Vincent defense, but he was cut off and tried to win a penalty to no avail.
He would make up for those errors with a very well placed shot in the 28th minute to open the scoring, but a little more comfort with his right foot would have been nice to see. He was also non-existent after that one goal. He only took one off target shot for the rest of the match.
Fabian Johnson in the midfield
Fabian Johnson was listed as a defender on the roster, and with the USA’s lack of talent at full back, it was expected he would in the starting back line. However, today he featured on the wide midfield, which is his natural position. Playing him in a more forward role paid off on the opening goal, where he played the layoff for Wood’s shot.
Sadly, Klinsmann’s ignorance of many alternatives at left back means we shouldn’t get used to seeing him there. Until the manager sucks it up and calls in Jorge Villafana or another quality American fullback, I think Johnson is resigned to that role going forward agaisnt the best competition CONCACAF has to offer.
The mix and match back line
This wasn’t exactly the match to test the mishmash American defense. St. Vincent and the Grenadines were never really going to threaten the goal much. Without John Brooks in the team, Geoff Cameron was without his usual partner in central defesne. Instead, he was out there with the fairly reliable Matt Besler. The pairing didn’t do anything horribly wrong, which was more than enough for the win. They were slightly vulnerable on through balls, but that can be written off as two unfamiliar players playing together.
The other oddity was Acosta at left back. Again, he didn’t do anything awful, but I would hardly expect him to become a regular at that position in the future, especially against better teams.
The second half was where the yellow flags started to show themselves. Ball watching and poor communication resulted in St. Vincent nearly getting on the board. There was a scramble in the 51st minute that almost resulted in a goal. The entire line looked confused as they watched the ball pinball through the penalty area and into the goal. Only a timely offside flag saved the clean sheet. More ball watching at the 56 minute mark again resulted in a goal waved off for offside.
The USA is more or less qualified for the hex, which was never really in doubt, even after the loss at Guatemala. If Trinidad and Tobago get at least a point at the Central American nation tonight, than it is all done and dusted. If they don’t, T&T comes to Jacksonville on Tuesday night. A draw or better will secure the USMNT’s spot in the final round of 2018 World Cup Qualifying.